Engineers at Sea

This is the story of two engineers who went on a cabin trip to Sweden and decided to rent a boat.

The decision was not an easy one to make. The sea was angry that day. Well, maybe not "angry" in the "angry" sense of the word; but nobody could argue the fact that it had been raining not half an hour ago, and that the water was not still. (I believe the Norwegian name for that wind category is "flau bris", which literally translates to "embarrassing wind" -- hey, it wasn't me.)

Anyhoo, the two engineers had their minds set on renting a boat, even though there were other engineers in their midst who had doubts. The two weren't reckless, though; they wouldn't settle for just any old boat. What type of boat should they go for? A motor boat? A sail boat? A canoe? A kayak? A row-boat? All respectable options, for sure, they agreed; but when they saw the picture of the Pedal Boat in the brochure, there was no point in discussing the matter further.

So they put on their finest rain coats, marched down to the boat rental agency and promptly acquired the key to Pedal Boat Number 2 (the girl behind the counter managed to fend off most of the tears of laughter until she had seen the two engineers off). If you could have seen their faces, you would see bliss; in their minds, they were already pedaling.

Down at the beach they found the pedal boat tightly secured with chains. The boat looked sturdy enough, solid yellow and white plastic all around. However, the two engineers soon made a horrible discovery; someone (an evil, evil person, most certainly not an Engineer) had previously broken off a key in the padlock. There was no way they could free this prisoner. And that was their boat, they reasoned, as both the boat and their key had the number 2 on them. Damn. The image of a childhood dream fulfilled had brutally turned into a gasping Lophius piscatorius on someone's dinner plate. Were they really forced to settle for a lesser type of boat?

No, the two engineers reasoned further. Since theirs was Boat 2, surely there had to be a Boat 1 -- but where? They considered that perhaps an equally crafty pair of engineers had already rented it that morning; that certainly seemed plausible. But then, almost by a fluke, they saw Her.

She had been dragged some 30 meters up and off the beach, digging into the hillside. Actually, depending on one's perspective, one could argue that she lay closer to the forest than to the shore. Nevertheless, from a distance she looked exactly like Boat 2. As the two engineers drew closer, they noticed that her red front bumpers were looking a bit smashed; but they agreed that this only added to her character. As they marvelled at her beauty, one of the engineers found a small, black plug that looked like... it should be plugged somewhere. "Probably a spare part", the other engineer concluded, "for our safety. Fault tolerance in practice!" She wasn't locked down, and had no signs (e.g. "Thar she sinks!") attached, so they did the only sensible thing they could think of; they dragged her down to shore and mounted her.

And things were looking good at first. The pedals worked, the steering worked (although they soon found she didn't want to go straight for periods longer than 1 second; "Details!"). At last, they were living their big sea adventure. They waved goodbye to a group of engineers who had gathered at the pier to admire the act.

So long, suckers!
"So long, suckers!"

When they had pedaled some fractions of a nautical mile away from shore, one engineer noticed that water was beginning to gather at his feet. Or had the water been there from the beginning, and only now had he noticed it? "Yeah, probably just your seamagination", the other engineer chuckled, and they raced on.

The right engineer now knows what the left engineer is doing!
The right engineer now knows what the left engineer is doing!

A couple of minutes later she was noticably leaning to one side. This development prompted the affected engineer to take off his shoes and socks, and soon he was treading the water. "Refreshing!", he exclaimed (the temperature was maybe 12 degrees Celsius, and they were far from shore). Now they were getting into rougher waters; the wind started messing up their hairdos, the waves were pounding on the front deck, and the boat seemed to be going lower and lower into the water (again, was it fact or just another one of Neptune's mind tricks?). A few more minutes passed before the two engineers reluctantly decided to turn back; but it wasn't too big of a disappointment, as they had only rented the boat for one hour anyway. (Dragging her down to sea had taken 10 minutes.)

“We are sinking, we are sinking!” “What are we zinking about?”
“We are sinking, we are sinking!” “What are we zinking about?” Nah, the thought never even crossed their minds.

They made it back to shore safe and sound and dragged her out of the sea. What a heavy beast she was! They struggled, and managed to turn her round, and the water started pouring out. And pouring. And pouring. "Probably normal", remarked the one engineer, "they take up some water to improve stability". But as they were standing there waiting for her to finish dehydrating, the other engineer (this was the ingenious one -- the one who had to take his footwear off) made a peculiar observation: Boat 2 (the one the padlock had taken prisoner) had plugs in the two holes where the water was pouring out of Boat 1. Plugs identical to the one they had found lying on the deck of Boat 1.

"Dude", said the engineer to the other, "I think someone pulled the plug on us." "Yeah", replied the other, "and we didn't even sea it comin'!" The first engineer then made a witty remark about pluggable architectures, and just like that, their sea adventure had come to an end.

Sounds like it was a great ride though!